- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Immigration officials, nudged to action by senior Navy officers spurred by newspaper accounts, slashed red tape over the weekend to let the Italian mother of a grieving September 11 widow stay six more months with her daughter and preschool grandchildren.
Jolanda Sannino, 79, will get formal notice that her U.S. visit is extended until March 15 after the Immigration and Naturalization Service obtains a signed form tomorrow. Officials said that approval is "a certainty."
The forms were signed Saturday, five days after the grandmother's case was first disclosed on the front page of The Washington Times. The forms will be hand-carried to the INS commissioner's office when it reopens after the Labor Day holiday.
"Grazie," a grateful Mrs. Sannino said yesterday. "Thank you to the Navy, to The Washington Times for publishing the story, to the INS, and to the good hearts of the American people."
Mrs. Sannino canceled her scheduled Sept. 13 flight back to Italy, where she stays with a niece in Sorrento. That departure would have been less than 24 hours after an Arlington National Cemetery ceremony honoring her son-in-law and 183 other victims of the attack.
She desperately wished to remain with her daughter, Marinella Hemenway, 34, whose husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald John Hemenway, 37, was the only uniformed serviceman for whom no identifiable remains were recovered at the Pentagon.
"She is in mourning and needs help with my grandchildren, Stefan and Desiree," Mrs. Sannino said at the new family home in Lorton. The children are preschoolers who will turn 4 and 2, respectively, at November birthdays a week apart.
Joe Karpinski, an INS official, said the post-September 11 Patriot Act allows "broad discretion" to grant exceptions in such cases.
He told The Times that the agency would have extended Mrs. Sannino's stay in any event had she filed a request. Mrs. Sannino said she was unaware of the procedures to do so and said that when she asked, an INS employee told her that she couldn't stay.
An INS spokeswoman interviewed by a reporter for The Times four days before the article appeared did not mention that option, saying, "If she didn't go, she would be 'out of status' and be subject to removal."
The spokeswoman brusquely suggested Mrs. Hemenway become a citizen and petition for her mother's admission, or that the mother take her chances with airport immigration inspectors. "She can go home and come back later and apply for additional time," the spokeswoman said.
"INS said it doesn't matter that she's 79; the law is the same for everybody. Except for the terrorists," Mrs. Hemenway said when she sought help to keep her mother here. "They weren't quite so strict on visas for the terrorists who hijacked Flight 77 and killed my husband and all those other people at the Pentagon."
The immigration service's Mr. Karpinski insists that it was all a misunderstanding.
"We were never going to, quote unquote, deport her," he said. Barring an unexpected glitch, he said, Mrs. Hemenway likely will get U.S. citizenship for herself by Thanksgiving and then may petition to keep her mother here permanently.
"I don't think there's any jeopardy to her mother staying in the United States," Mr. Karpinski said. "An attitude of certainty [that she may stay] is not misplaced."
Mrs. Sannino earned her own standing with the Navy long before her daughter was born. For more than 25 years she was a civilian employee at the U.S. Navy Support Activity in Naples. Upon reading the dispatch in The Times, senior officers in the office of Chief of Naval Operations brought Mrs. Sannino's plight to INS attention with two telephone calls, INS and Navy sources say.
"We took an interest in it immediately at the leadership level. We contacted Immigration and asked why this is in the 'so hard' category," said a high-ranking Navy officer who asked not to be named. He welcomed the outcome, as did Petty Officer Hemenway's widow.
"I'm happy for me and for the kids," a weeping Mrs. Hemenway said. "When they wake in the morning they can see Grandma. She makes great coffee, and if she was leaving I would have nobody to talk to."

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